A confidence building measure was all that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China was. Sandwiched between corruption scandals and a floundering economy at home, the Indian prime minister failed to make waves in China. While the governments signed nine agreements on his short 1.5 day visit, neither held much water. While headlines screamed a border pact between the sweet and sour neighbors, the fine print reveled little substance to the story. Same was the case with the proposed visa on arrival for Chinese tourists, the proposed SEZ’s or the river pact between the countries – no big step forward, just an assurance that each had one anothers backs.
While it is significant for China and India to publicly mention that they will support each other internationally and not interfere in each others foreign affairs, the meeting should have also outlined confidence building measures for the economy and trade. Fast floundering from the Indian side, it would have been prudent for Dr. Singh to have also thrown in a clause for international, regional and bilateral trade, economic and financial co operation.
As for the Border Defence Co-operation Agreement between India and China, Indian defence analysts applauded the fact that India removed the clause mentioning that no new infrastructure can be built along the border. A clause mentioning that each nation has to inform the other of developments along the border was however inserted which seems to work for both nations. Further, surmounting from the incursions into Indian territory this summer, both governments also agreed not to tail each other’s patrols in the areas where there is no common understanding of the LAC, and laying down the right to seek a clarification. Additionally, the two sides are to establish meeting sites for border personnel, as well as telephone and telecommunication links on the LAC. A hotline between the two military headquarters is also under consideration.
Crucially, India and China have also agreed that if the two sides come face-to-face in areas where they have differing perceptions of the LAC, “both sides shall exercise maximum self-restraint, refrain from any provocative actions, not use force or threaten to use force against the other side, treat each other with courtesy and prevent exchange of armed conflict”.
All in all, the meeting in the Great Hall of the people, Beijing was meant to assuage both sides of where each stood and build an even stronger bond of friendship over the Himalaya’s Afterall, its always good to have two friends catch up!